OPERATION: DOWNFALL (The Invasion of Japan for Otaku Purposes [aka ODTIJOP])


Day 9: Thursday, October 21th, 2011

We woke up at 7:15AM on the 21st too, got ready for the day, and then Mehve and I marched up and down Kyoto Street looking for the hotel where the day's 8:30AM tour was starting from. We found it with 5 minutes to spare, and were very glad that we didn't end up staying at that place while we were in town.

The hotel that our tour group was gathering at was like a cheap-bling facade over an ancient, should-have-burned-down-for-the- insurance-money-years-ago building. The lobby reminded me of an old lady who used to be something sexy in her youth, but only had an air of overly-made-up desperation and decay set about her now. We were very glad that I didn't choose this place as our Kyoto hotel, and we were equally pleased when our tour guide for the day (that would be Yumi-san) appeared, gathered all us gaijin up, and walked us the fuck out of there down a block or two, over to our first destination of the day, the Shogun's old palace, Nijo Castle.

Rossman Japan trip

This is like a rare view of outside our hotel window during the day. It's better at night in the darkness when one can imagine creepy Japanese monsters and shit prowling around and being hunted by Shinigami or Vampire Hunters named D.


During the walk I thought I'd ask Yumi-san some questions I'd been wondering for a while. Number one on my list was "Yumi-san, do they even make Ramune soda anymore?"

Rossman Japan trip: Kyoto and Nara tour stickerShe looked at me quizzically and then said, with a hint of melancholy in her voice, "Ahhhh, Ramune. I used to drink Ramune when I was a little girl. This was long time ago. How do you know about Ramune?"

I then explained about RahXephon as best I could without getting too embarrassed about being a total anime dork, but Yumi-san nodded with me before finishing up with, "I do not know where you can buy any Ramune. But keep looking! I am SURE you will find!"

That made me hopeful, and after a little more back and forth banter about the weather and the Autumn season we soon entered Nijo Castle's enormous front gates.

Nijo Castle was pretty cool. It's straight out of an old Kurasawa movie. Huge pillars, beautiful gardens, and it even had the nightingale floors that made soft musical notes when walked on so that assassins couldn't silently sneak around the place at night. Mehve and I were both pretty impressed with the very cool wall scrolls and other art decorating the whole place, but we were especially blown away by the architecture of the castle! We were very impressed with how they could build something this grand and cool 400 years ago... That is until Yumi-san informed us that the actual original Nijo Castle burned down in a fire, and this was a recreation. WHAT?! We later learned from every other historical place we visited that NOTHING, NO BUILDING from Japan's past is the original anymore. They're all rebuilt after earthquakes, or fires, or tsunamis, or lightning strikes that caused fires, or Gojiras turned them into matchsticks, and MOST are in their 4th or 5th regeneration! Stone, man. Japan never figured out how to build securely with stone and cement until extremely recently. Very odd.

Rossman Japan trip

The main Nijo Castle gates and me... And some schoolgirls.


Rossman Japan trip

Mehve and I were terrified that the castle would blow up while we were there.


Rossman Japan trip

Ahhhhhhhh. So pretty. I think there's a crane in this picture somewhere. A royal, Nijo crane. I named him Gendo because he looked like a badass crane who didn't take crap from anybody and who looked down on everybody.


So we walked around the Nijo grounds during our palace tour "free time" for a while, but then I got a little thirsty and went into the gift shop/refreshment stand on the premises. Mehve said he didn't want anything, but once I saw what they had behind the counter I just HAD to buy myself a drink instead of looking for a water fountain! They. Had. Meron. Soda. Ramune. I think I squealed like a little girl (which made the gaggle of middle schoolers and high schoolers on field trips that surrounded me look around in fright), and then I ran up to the counter and practically jizzed my pants as I blurted out "Ichi Ramune, domo!"

The lunch-lady-looking woman on the other side of the counter (complete with hairnet and large mole on her cheek with a long strand of black hair protruding from it) eyed me suspiciously, slowly grabbed a really cool-looking, thick Ramune bottle and handed it over to me after I gave her a few ¥en for the sweet, sweet nectar of the gods. But before she actually let go of the soft drink bottle she looked me dead in the eye and said "You bring back. You drink Ramune, you bring back.... uh, you bring back grass-u."

I was a little bit perplexed that I was somehow getting confused with a drug dealer and this lady wanted an illegal exchange, but then it hit me. "Oh," I said, "You want me to bring-u back-u the bottle when I'm done drinking it, hai?" I mimicked drinking a tasty beverage with my free hand that wasn't trying to pull the Ramune from her kung-fu grip.

Lunch Lady nodded grimly, and then told me in pretty good English, "Yes. Ramune bottre rike that very rare. Hard to get. We reuse. Very important you return. Yes. Make sure you return bottre prease."

I nodded in agreement and Lunch Lady let go of the Ramune. I then slowly took a step backwards while not blinking and keeping constant eye contact with her, then I took another tentative step, just waiting... Then when 6-7 high school girls ran up to the counter to buy some sort of meat on a stick or some strange Japanesey candy in a noisy, mad mob, I winked at Lunch Lady, turned around on my heel, and then fucking booked it like Usain motherfuckin' Bolt! I heard her say "Iye! No! You stop--" before I rounded the corner and was out of sight!

I then got Mehve to take a picture of me and my spoils of war inside the castle gates before hurrying him out the exit and onto the tour bus that Yumi-san was starting to herd our group onto. I drank the shit out of that tasty beverage, then wrapped the bottle in a T-shirt I had in my backpack and never let that thing out of my site for the whole rest of the day. Victory is fucking sweet.

Rossman Japan trip

I had that bottle enshrined at my house... This was before I got back home and started finding Ramune at every fucking local Asian food market around for like $1.50 a pop. Oh well... THIS bottle is actually made of thick as fuck glass and will survive the apocalypse along with the cockroaches. They might even take shelter in it. I'll be dead, I won't mind.


We then bussed it over to the Kinkaku-ji  (aka "Temple of the Golden Pavilion"), which is officially called Rokuon-ji (or "Deer Garden Temple"), just a little drive away from the castle. It's a Buddhist Temple, with beautiful gardens around it, the Japanese word for "BIG" carved into the mountain above it, and the main gold-leaf-covered Golden Pavilion was absolutely beautiful... Too bad it too was not the original. The Golden Pavilion was burned down several times, the most recent was in 1955 when a bat-shit crazy Buddhist monk torched it before trying to kill himself. This is when Mehve and I found out that when the Japanese rebuild one of their fallen ancient landmarks they mostly just guess how it looked before. We were told that they more than likely make the reconstructed edifice to be larger and more grand than it probably was before the arson or war or forest fire or earthquake leveled it. Sigh...

We did the whole tour thing at Rokuon-ji, then we hit the gift shop and both Mehve and I went a little crazy with the spending. I bought some little mementos, and then a very beautiful and heavy golden scroll (that I had no idea what to do with once I got it home). Mehve bought a bunch of expensive shit too, but seriously, that scroll... what the hell was I thinking? I tend to go souvenir crazy. It's a problem that I am dealing with.

Rossman Japan trip

BIG mountain graffiti.


Rossman Japan trip

And here's the Golden Pavilion. It's a pavilion. It's covered in gold... There you go.


Rossman Japan trip

Mehve took this really nice shot of the Golden Pavilion, and so I just thought it might be nice to have TWO relatively normal and pleasant pictures on this page. Gaze at its beauty.


Rossman Japan trip

There was this pot on the other side of the ropes on the path that we got to walk around the Temple ground on, and Yumi told us that if we were to throw some money and get it into the pot we'd get like a wish, or good fortune, or a free whore or something. I lost over ¥3,000 in various change, but only got coins to bounce off the pot or go in but bounce out... Mehve stepped up with a single ¥5 piece and nailed it his first try. Here he is acting all smug about it. The world doesn't like a braggart, Mehve...


After the gift shop, Yumi got the whole group back on the bus and this time we trucked on over to the Emperor's Palace. This was a boring step backwards for the tour, as it was just us walking around big buildings on paths packed with gravel, and no greenery or ponds or anything worth looking at. Yumi had a few stories about dignitaries and world leaders flying in via helicopter for meetings in the past, but when we all gazed up at the empty sky and found nothing, it kind of cemented just how lame this stop of the tour actually was. I think Yumi felt ashamed too, as her demeanor and her stories got more quiet as we marched on.

Once more, back to the bus, and then on to lunch!... Which brought us down even more. Remember a few pages ago when I warned you about the absolute WORST meal that Mehve and I had in Japan? Well, this was it.

We were taken to the Kyoto Handicraft Center, and then led to an upstairs cafeteria with one of the worst buffets I've ever laid eyes on, let alone eaten at, spread out before us. Mehve and I were champs though and tried everything in the warming dishes that we could, but that mostly only led to only one or two bites from each of the lukewarm microwaved items, and lots of water to wash it all down. As we looked around us when we were done (far from full, but done nonetheless) we could see that we were not the only ones disappointed with the "meal." The rest of the tour group, and even Yumi, were all just sitting or standing around the cafe looking sadly at all the uneaten shitty food still on our trays.

Rossman Japan trip

Here I am at the Emperor's Palace... It was kind of lame. It may have been super cool on the inside, but I guess I'll never know since the tour only took us around the outside of the buildings. Yumi wouldn't even let me ninja-sneak in to see if there was anything cool under the roof. Lame.


Rossman Japan trip

Mehve was impressed with their timeworn secret techniques.

This, as you can see, was pretty much all the Palace grounds looked like. Loooooooots of gravel. No real ponds or grass or even shops that sold Ramune.


Rossman Japan trip

The most non-edible buffet I've ever been to, and Doctor Dave and I hit up this really shady Chinese buffet in Athens, GA once a week... AND I've actually been to a Ryan's Steakhouse. This one won, hands down.


Rossman Japan trip

Mehve tried his hand at the lottery ball-dropper thing in the Handicraft Center. Once again he won something, I lost, and all the cute Japanese girls working there laughed at me.


Mehve and I disposed of our mostly filled plates and then wandered back down to the first floor where the actual Handicraft Center was. I don't know about Mehve, but I was a bit pissed at myself for already spending so much at the Rokuon-ji gift shop once I saw all the cool Japanesey things at the H.C. (as I called it). Lots of cool mecha toys, lots of sweet swords and weapons, and lots of cool clothes! I ended up getting a "Happy Jacket" (one of those bright red, open jackets you see people in baseball stadiums and whatnot wearing when having fun or being obnoxiously drunk, or both!) that actually fit me, and a "Divine Wind" headband, because that's both disrespectful to our WWII Pacific Theater servicemen, and it's fucking hilarious at the same time. Then I bought a bunch more headbands for my nephews and niece (these read things like "Number One," and "Study Well" in Japanese), and then I watched Mehve blow a butt-load of Yen on lots of weapons, clothes, and gifts for friends. Ah! Dammit! I still hadn't really picked up any souvenirs for any friends yet. Thank Kami-sama for our next tour stop.

Rossman Japan tripOnce again Yumi packed up on the bus and took us to another destination. This time it was to one of the most fun spots in all of Japan: Nara Deer Park. If you've seen any anime featuring school kids that features an episode of them going on a class trip, then you've seen Nara Deer Park. ALL Japanese school kids go there at some point. Some go 4 times a year. While we were there we saw dozens upon dozens of school tour groups (all dressed up in their preppy school uniforms and all). And the deer! Tons of fucking Sika deer (a spotted breed of holy deer that are like living, breathing gods or somesuch shit... I wasn't paying too much attention to Yumi at that point because DEER!) just walking around, hoping to eat the deer crackers you bought, or your pants. This place was awesome!

Mehve and I each bought a metric shit-ton of deer crackers, then we walked around filming each other feeding the swarming herbivores. I almost got knocked down, and Mehve almost had several holes chewed through his trousers (mostly because he was storing his deer crackers in his pockets). Then we bought a stuffed deer from the gift shop in the Nara Buddhist Temple (aka Todai-ji) and had a deer kiss it while telling the deer that Megu-chan said to say "Hey.... How's your mothah?"


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